Source:ESPN.com & MLB.com
One of most distinctive voices in sports has been silenced. Jack Buck, who in nearly five decades as a broadcaster rose from Harry Caray's sidekick to a St. Louis institution, died Tuesday night after a long hospital stay. He was 77.
The gravel-voiced Buck, a heavy smoker for decades, authored several memorable calls. After a gimpy Kirk Gibson hit a game-winning two-run homer off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Buck was incredulous: "I don't believe what I just saw!"
Jack Buck was born Aug. 21, 1924, in Holyoke, Mass., to Earl and Kathleen Buck. He was the third oldest of seven children. At age 15, Buck's family moved to Cleveland, where his father had gotten a job working for the Erie Railroad.
It was there that he developed an early passion for baseball. In his autobiography Jack Buck: That's a Winner, Buck recalled sitting in the bleachers at the 1935 All-Star Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium and watching his idol, Jimmie Foxx, hit a home run. And he recalled being at the stadium on July 17, 1941, when the Indians ended Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.
Buck graduated from Lakewood High School, a suburb just west of Cleveland, in 1942 and then went to work on one of the oar boats on the Great Lakes, where he held a variety of jobs, including porter, night cook, baker, deck hand and painter.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in June 1943. In March 1945, he was part of the 9th Infantry Division, which was responsible for preventing the Germans from detonating the bridge in the town of Remagen. On March 15, Buck was hit in the left leg and forearm by shrapnel that narrowly missed striking a hand grenade strapped to his chest. He almost lost his left arm and received the Purple Heart.
After the war, Buck enrolled at Ohio State, where he majored in radio speech and minored in Spanish. He went on the radio airwaves for the first time in 1948, doing a sports show at WOSU, the university radio station. He also got a night job at a Columbus radio station, WCOL, and did play-by-play for Ohio State basketball. He graduated from Ohio State in three years and three months. Buck recalled a professor critiquing his work, "You'd better find something else to do for a living," he told him. Buck ignored the advice.
Much like the baseball players he would cover in his career, Buck worked his way up through the minors. In 1950, he became the broadcaster for the Columbus Redbirds, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, on WCOL. He got his first television job in 1952, working WBNS-TV in Columbus. One of his co-workers was Jonathan Winters, who would go on to become a well-known comedian. In 1953, Buck was promoted to the Cardinals other Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., when the Red Wings announcer, Ed Edwards was fired for telling a dirty joke at a banquet.
After the 1953 season, Mr. Buck auditioned for an opening to become part of the St. Louis Cardinals' booth working with Harry Caray and Milo Hamilton. Buck beat out Chick Hearn, who went on to become an institution with the Los Angeles Lakers, for the job with the Cardinals.
Although Hamilton left after the 1954 season, Buck remained third on the broadcast depth chart as Joe Garagiola and then Buddy Blatner were brought in. Neither could work well with Caray, and Buck became the No. 2 man on Cardinals broadcasts after a working for ABC in 1961.
The relationship between Buck and Harry Caray, which got off to a rocky start improved and they worked together until the Cardinals fired Caray after the 1969 season. Some broadcast historians consider their 16-year partnership the greatest in sports broadcasting history.
With Caray no longer part of the broadcast crew, Buck became the "Voice of the Cardinals." Former Cardinals player Mike Shannon joined Buck as the color man on broadcasts in 1972 and they worked together for 29 seasons, making their partnership one of the longest running in broadcast history. Buck also worked with his youngest son, Joe, who is now FOX's No. 1 baseball and football announcer, starting in 1991.
In St. Louis and throughout the Midwest, it was Buck's calls of Cardinals games that made him a beloved figure. His signature call after Cardinals victories: "That's a winner!" In 1998, the team unveiled a bronze sculpture outside Busch Stadium of Buck's likeness behind the microphone.
Buck also told Cardinals fans to "Go crazy, folks, go crazy!" when Smith homered -- his first ever left-handed -- off Tom Niedenfuer of the Dodgers to win Game 5 of the 1985 NL Championship Series. Buck took a minimalist approach when McGwire tied Roger Maris' home run record in 1998. Then, he said, "Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud," while the crowd noise washed over the airwaves.
In addition to his broadcasting duties with the Cardinals, he was well known on a national level for baseball and other sports.
Buck broadcast the Major League All-Star Game in 1965 for NBC, was a play-by-play man occasionally for NBC's Game of the Week and also worked ABC's baseball broadcasts in the early 1960s. He broadcast the 1960 Japanese All-Star Game in Tokyo for ABC.
While he might be best known as a baseball broadcaster, also is considered a pioneer in football broadcasting. He did the first televised broadcast of the American Football League in 1960 and worked AFL broadcasts for 3 seasons. He was behind the mike for CBS's broadcast of one of the most famous football games ever, the 1967 Ice Bowl between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. He did the play-by-play on TV for Super Bowl IV and worked several years doing NFL games for CBS-TV. In 1976, Buck did play-by-play for the first pro football game played outside the United States, a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers in Japan. He also co-hosted a NFL pregame show for NBC in 1976 called "Grandstand" working with an then-unknown co-host named Bryant Gumbel.
Buck was also the radio voice of Monday Night Football for CBS from 1978-1996, working with former NFL coach Hank Stram. The pair did 16 Super Bowl broadcasts and Buck's total of 17 Super Bowls is the most of any announcer. He received the Pete Rozelle Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
In addition to his baseball and football duties, Buck announced NBA games for the St. Louis Hawks and Rochester Red Wings, handled play-by-play duties for the NHL's St. Louis Blues inaugural season in 1967-68 and worked with Chris Schenkel on ABC's popular broadcasts of the Pro Bowler's Tour.
He had worked at KMOX radio since 1960 and was the original host of "At Your Service," a program credited as the beginning of talk radio. One of his first guests was former First Lady Eleanor D. Roosevelt.
In addition to his enshrinement in Cooperstown and Canton, Mr. Buck is in the Radio Hall of Fame and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He received a lifetime achievement Emmy in 2000. He was selected as St. Louis' Citizen of the Year in 2000 for his contributions to the community. He was the campaign chairman for the St. Louis chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for more than 30 years and helped raise more than $30 million. He also worked with other organizations, including Matthews-Dickey Boys Club, the American Cancer Society, Boys Town, Boys Hope, St. Louis Backstoppers, the Girl Scouts, Veterans Hospital and the Variety Club.
Buck an amateur poet read a stirring patriotic poem prior to the Cardinals first game after the September 11th terrorist attacks, in one of final moments in public.
Buck underwent lung cancer surgery December 5th. He returned to Barnes-Jewish Hospital on January 3rd to have an intestinal blockage removed and never left the hospital. Joe Buck said his father went in and out of a coma several times the last few weeks. On May 16th, Buck underwent another operation to eradicate a series of recurring infections, including pneumonia, and was placed on dialysis. Joe Buck said his father died with his family by his side.
In tribute the statue dedicated to Mr. Buck outside of Busch Stadium in 1998 will be permanently lit.